The Birth of a Nation was the talk of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and now the nonprofit behind the annual Park City event is celebrating the pic’s director-star. The Sundance Institute said today that Nate Parker will receive its Vanguard Award.
Parker, who also wrote the screenplay, will be honored August 11 at Night Before Next, a summer celebration benefiting the Institute and its artists on the eve of Sundance Next Fest at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
“We are excited to honor Nate Parker as he prepares to release the extraordinary film TheBirth of a Nation, which we supported during development and premiered at our Festival,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute.
The Birth of a Nation, which Fox Searchlight acquired for a festival-record $17.5M at Sundance, centers on Nat Turner (Parker), a literate, enslaved man and preacher whose financially strapped owner (Armie Hammer) accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities — against himself and his fellow slaves — Turner orchestrates an uprising in the hope of leading his people to freedom. The film also stars Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, Penelope Ann Miller, Aunjanue Ellis, Mark Boone Junior and Aja Naomi King.
Ever since actor/director Nate Parker‘s “Birth of a Nation” caused a sensation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival by landing the biggest distribution deal made thre ever, we have been waiting to hear and see more. Today is the day, as Fox Searchlight has released the film’s first teaser trailer. This drama about Nat Turner and the revolt he lead in 1831 is set to be released in theaters this October. Check it out:
Gina Prince-Bythewood will direct and Gugu Mbatha-Raw will star in An Untamed State, an adaptation of Roxane Gay‘s debut novel that the director will co-write with the author for Fox Searchlight. Michael De Luca will produce through his Michael De Luca Productions banner with Prince-Bythewood.
The novel tells the powerful, unflinching story of a Haitian-American woman kidnapped for ransom in front of her husband and child. The novel explores the privilege that made her a target and the strength she must draw on to survive and reclaim her life. Prince-Bythewood is best known for directing Love and Basketball, Beyond the Lights, and The Secret Life of Bees, and with husband, Reggie Rock Bythewood, she is executive producing the 10-hour event series Shots Fired for Fox, Imagine Television and Undisputed Cinema. Mbatha-Raw most recently starred in Concussion and Belle, and she teamed with Prince-Bythewood on Beyond the Lights.
Fox Searchlight, the specialty films division of 21st Century Fox, is closing a $17.5 million deal to acquire worldwide rights to “The Birth of a Nation,” a drama about the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, that had an electrifying premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The Weinstein Company, Netflix, Paramount, and Sony were among the companies making offers on the picture. Bidding lasted through the night, with one company, believed to be Netflix, offering $20 million for the picture. The deal is the richest in Sundance history.
The film was written and directed by Nate Parker, who also stars as Turner and invested his own money in the production. Parker is best known for his work in “The Great Debaters” and “Beyond the Lights.” The response to the picture was seismic and the Oscar buzz erupted as soon as the lights went up following the picture’s debut at the Eccles Theatre.
In a rave review, Variety critic Justin Chang wrote, “‘The Birth of a Nation’ exists to provoke a serious debate about the necessity and limitations of empathy, the morality of retaliatory violence, and the ongoing black struggle for justice and equality in this country. It earns that debate and then some.”
The cast includes Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley and Mark Boone Junior.
article by Brent Lang and Ramin Setoodeh via Variety.com
BET Networks has named veteran Fox Searchlight production executive Zola Mashariki as Executive Vice President and Head of Original Programming. Based in Los Angeles, she will oversee scripted and unscripted programming and development as well as casting for the cable network, reporting to BET Networks President of Programming Stephen Hill.
Mashariki’s appointment completes the restructuring in BET’s top programming ranks following the September departure of president of original programming Loretha Jones. In December, BET promoted President of Music Programming & Specials Stephen Hill to President of Programming, overseeing both Original Programming and Music Programming & Specials. Hill, who remains based in New York, has extensive background in music shows and specials though a limited interaction with the Hollywood creative community. That is a void Mashariki is expected to fill. Like Jones, she will be based in Los Angeles.
Mashariki spent the last 15 years at Fox Searchlight, most recently serving as Senior Vice President of Production. During her tenure at the feature company, she worked on such movies as The Last King of Scotland and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Additionally, Mashariki, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, is the creator of the Black Film Initiative, shepherding the development of a new business plan for the African-American audience that resulted in the releases of such films as The Secret Life of Bees and Notorious.
If you asked most people in Hollywood who Amma Asante was just a few months ago, you’d probably get a blank stare. Now, after the release of her critically acclaimed film “Belle,” the British writer-director is a certified Hollywood player.
Asante’s life and career took a dramatic turn in May, when “Belle” hit theaters in North America. TheWrap spoke with her this past weekend in Boston at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention, where Asante introduced clips of the film during a presentation by Fox Home Entertainment.
“You make a movie essentially in a bubble, I think, especially when it’s your second movie,” Asante said. “So, I was certainly making this movie in a bubble, and wondering whether my concept of the world, and my concept of the world back then as well, would connect to an audience today.”
It seems Asante had no reason to worry. “Belle” received an impressive 83 percent positive rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and the independent film earned a respectable $10 million at the box office via Fox Searchlight.
The movie is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) – the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of Royal Navy Captain, Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Lindsay leaves Belle to be raised by her aristocratic great uncle, Lord Mansfield, in 18th century England. Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson) are already taking care of another niece, and the two girls become inseparable. But while Belle’s lineage allows her certain privileges, her skin color prevents her from having the traditional noble social status.
“Initially this project had started off with my producer and the writer who’s credited on the film, with HBO in America. Then HBO dropped the project,” Asante said. After the script passed through several different hands, Asante decided to give it a more personal touch.
“What I did was, I put my experiences into Dido’s life. That was the easiest way of connecting the historical facts and to try and make it personal … There are many lines in it that are quotes from my father and quotes from my sister,” Asante said, referring to the fact that she grew up in England, but felt like an outsider because she is black and of Ghanaian descent.
“We lived in an area where we were one of only two black families on the street,” Asante explained as she opened up about her personal experiences with racism. “We went through that period of having feces through the letterbox (mailbox) … and graffiti on our walls.”
Fox Searchlight had another solid debut this weekend with its initial limited opening of Belle in four New York and L.A. theaters. British-set period drama Belle,directed by Amma Asante and staring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, managed a regal bow, grossing over $104K, giving the film a $26,123 theater average. Searchlight said the feature outgrossed “Spider-Man 2” at the Landmark Theatres in West LA and was the second-highest grosser at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood. In New York, it also had strong numbers at Lincoln Plaza and Sunshine theaters.
“We’re pretty happy with how it opened. It’s an interesting thing with a film that’s very sophisticated like this and you’re hoping to get the cinephile crowd out,” Searchlight’s EVP of Distribution Frank Rodriguez told me Sunday morning. “The secret of this film is to keep it in theaters and see if it can get some traction. We know we have a great art film and we know we’re going to do well with it. The real goal here is to see if it can go a little mainstream. To do that with Spider-Man and the like will be interesting. Perhaps it’s a bit of counter-programming, but if we had had a $15 – 25K [PTA this weekend] I would have been happy, so we’re at the high end of that. In this business anything can happen, but we’re going into the right theaters and targeting a sophisticated audience.”
Fox Searchlight will open Belle in ten more cities next weekend including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston as it lures the film’s natural art-house crowd while also tempting some cross-over. The company expects Belle to be in about 350 theaters by Memorial Day weekend and it will head into about 50 – 60 runs next weekend.
Fox Searchlight plans to add about 500 theaters this weekend for director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slaveafter Sunday night’s Best Motion Picture – Drama win at the Golden Globe Awards, with a goal of reaching 1,000 runs in the next two weeks. After getting such nods from the Globes and Oscar nominations, a studio often ups its runs of the film when it can using those awards and nominations as a marketing tool. New ads touting the nominations and wins are traditionally done and then blasted out into the marketplace. Award nominations and wins, especially for the Oscars, means cash at the box office.
The Golden Globe and expected Oscar nominations for picture, acting and directing categories for Slave is marketing you can’t buy. The critically-acclaimed film, having received a bevy of nominations from BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), just opened in the UK on 208 screens to quickly grab the No. 1 spot with a strong $4.2M take over the weekend. Internationally, it has yet to debut in Germany, France, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Japan among others. Domestically, it has grossed $38.9M since being released in a limited run October 18. “What we’re looking at is what we call a two-step. We will be adding theaters both this weekend and next weekend, going back into some of the art theaters that we were in before,” said Frank Rodriguez, head of distribution for Fox Searchlight. “Based on the Golden Globe win and expectations for it do well with the Oscar nominations on Thursday, we will pop it up over the next couple of weeks and hope to get to into 1,000 theaters by Jan. 24th.”
Slavery saga 12 Years a Slave opened at No. 1 in the United Kingdom this weekend, in the Oscar frontrunner’s first major overseas test. 12 Years a Slave took in $4.2 million from 208 screens, an encouraging number for Lionsgate, which is distributing in nearly every foreign territory. It’s currently playing in 16 international markets and has taken in $5 million, with most of its significant openings yet to come. The R-rated “12 Years a Slave” is directed by Steve McQueen stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. It has grossed nearly $39 million in the U.S., where Fox Searchlight is distributing.